Hartman: Willingham seeking return to 2012 form

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 13, 2013 - 6:30 AM

The Twins slugger is pleased that the team is doing better but would like to say the same of his average.

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Twins left fielder Josh Willingham

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune file

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Through June 11 last season Twins left fielder Josh Willingham was hitting .294 (58-for-194) with 18 doubles, a triple, 11 home runs, 42 RBI and an on-base percentage of .414 in 56 games.

This year Willingham’s numbers have dipped some but he is still producing good power numbers. Through Tuesday night and 56 games played this year, Willingham is hitting .216 (43-for-199) with 11 doubles, 11 home runs, 31 RBI and on-base percentage of .359.

Willingham, who played his 1,000th career major league game Tuesday night, said he feels fine at the plate, and is just happy the team is playing better than it did in 2012.

“It’s obviously not what I did last year at this time but hopefully it will come around,” Willingham said. “It’s been a lot better for us team-wise so that’s been good.”

Willingham said that he wishes he had the answer for why his average has fallen.

“I feel like a lot of the balls I hit do go in the air and when I pull the ball, and I hit it good on the barrel, then I feel like I can hit it out,” he said. “So I think that’s primarily my answer, but I think left field at Target Field is where you can hit a home run.

“It’s a little more difficult to hit one to right field, so most of the home runs I hit are to left field and that’s to my advantage.”

Willingham added that some pitchers have been throwing him differently after the success he had last season, when he finished with 35 homers and 110 RBI.

“I’d say a little different maybe, maybe a few more offspeed pitches in fastball counts,” he said. “And I’d say it’s a combination of them making better pitches and me missing a few pitches. So I think it’s a combination of both. But I’ve seen a few more breaking balls and changeups in fastball counts.”

As Willingham mentioned, the Twins have played better this year than last, when they lost 96 games in his first year of a three-year, $21 million contract. “Anytime you lose almost 100 games [like last year] it’s tough,” he said. “This year we’ve done a lot better as a team and it obviously makes it a lot more fun when you win, so that’s the goal.

“Hopefully we can continue to play well. We’ve sort of found our stride the last couple of weeks and need to keep going.”

Having previously played with the Marlins, Nationals and Athletics, Willingham said Target Field has been his favorite home ballpark. He has had to adjust to some of the ballpark’s quirks, including his early difficulty in seeing the ball off the bat in day games.

“I say sometimes it makes a little difficult to see the ball off of the bat, but it’s not really,” he said. “Sometimes when it’s really bright in the daytime and everyone has got on white, it makes it a little tougher.

“Obviously I love Target Field. It’s a great ballpark to play in, very pretty ballpark.”

U hoops graduates

Gophers associate athletic director Marc Ryan has done some research and now that Willie Burton has graduated, every member of the Gophers’ 1989-90 Elite Eight team except one has graduated from the university, either on time or coming back to complete their work.

The only member of that team that hasn’t got a degree from Minnesota is Junior Graves, who played in only two Big Ten games and transferred, eventually landing at Texas Christian.

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